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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7035

Queensland Floods

Senator FURNER (Queensland) (14:55): My question is to the Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery, Senator Ludwig. Can the minister provide an update to the Senate on the Gillard government's investment and action to assist Queensland to rebuild after the 2010-11 flood and cyclone?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:55): I thank Senator Furner for his continued interest in repairing and rebuilding Queensland after those devastating floods. One hundred per cent of the state was declared a disaster area. All can remember the terrible loss suffered at Grantham, where devastating floods caused much devastation and loss of life. In Far North Queensland, within a very short while of the floods, Cyclone Yasi struck, impacting Cardwell and Mission Beach along the Cassowary Coast.

The Gillard government are spending close to $6 billion rebuilding Queensland. Most of the funds are for the reconstruction of essential public and community infrastructure such as roads. In fact, we took the unprecedented step to advance $4 million so Queensland could get on with the job of rebuilding the state. This meant that local councils could start the rebuild with their costs being able to be covered quickly, not waiting for reimbursements. It meant that councils like Brisbane, then headed by Mayor Campbell Newman, could get on with the job of rebuilding their communities.

The reconstruction in Queensland is progressing. All 418 affected schools have been fully repaired and $47 million has been provided through personal hardship assistance. And there has been a range of work carried out through the help of both individuals and small businesses, who pitched in to do the clean-up work. State roads have been repaired—7,300 kilometres of damaged roads. But only 25 per cent have been fully reconstructed; a further 40 per cent need to be constructed. Much more work still needs to be done. When it comes to the work, former Premier Anna Bligh stepped up— (Time expired)

Senator FURNER (Queensland) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. As a Queensland senator, I know many people were affected by the flooding and the cyclone, particularly Imogen and Alyssa in Townsville. Can the minister inform the Senate how important it is to have close cooperation with the Queensland government during the reconstruction phase and how important national partnership agreements are in delivering the best results for Queenslanders?

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:58): I thank Senator Furner for his interest, and it seems from the interjections that those opposite appear less caring. When it comes to rebuilding a state, politics should not matter. In response to the disaster events of 2010-11, the Queensland government—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: Their interjections really highlight what I said, quite frankly. The Queensland government established the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, the QRA, and that was the right thing to do, to ensure that the work that could be coordinated across departments continued. The QRA was charged with reconnecting, rebuilding and improving Queensland communities and the economy after the natural disasters. It was work at all levels of government. The reconstruction of Queensland required a significant coordination between local councils, state government and the federal government. (Time expired)

Senator FURNER (Queensland) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Ignore the interjections, Senator Furner.

Senator FURNER: I will ignore those interjections.

The PRESIDENT: They are disorderly. You need to address your question to the chair.

Senator FURNER: Can the minister inform the Senate on the reports that the Queensland government will abolish funding to the Queensland Reconstruction Authority and how this will put at risk the continued reconstruction efforts and future preparedness?

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (15:00): I thank Senator Furner for raising this issue because, as a proud Queenslander, I can say that I was distressed to read this morning that the Newman government has plans to abolish the Queensland Reconstruction Authority. I would expect those opposite, including Senator Macdonald, to fight for the retention of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority while there is still $3.4 billion worth of reconstruction projects in the pipeline. Just as Local Government Association of Queensland president, Paul Bell, said, councils cannot afford to put up with the lies and confusion if the QRA is scrapped. The choice of the Newman budget now means projects across the state have been put at risk, quite frankly. Premier Newman has turned his back on Brisbane once before. Now he is letting them down again.

The Gillard government has always wanted to rebuild Queensland as quickly as possible— (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I ask that further questions be put on the Notice Paper.